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*Endymion Spring* by Matthew Skelton- young adult book review
Endymion Spring
by Matthew Skelton
Grades 6+ 416 pages Delacorte August 2008 Hardcover    

As the back cover of Matthew Skelton’s debut novel Endymion Spring says, “the past is a dangerous beast.” The past - and a voiceless young boy named Endymion Spring - hold the foundations for the present and untold secrets waiting to be uncovered by whomever the book Endymion Spring chooses to bear its burden.

The book chooses American Blake Winters in this fascinating novel that is reminiscent in ways of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, particularly because Oxford, England, is the setting both here and for the first book of the Pullman’s trilogy, The Golden Compass. If you like novels full of action, adventure, and dusty libraries (no, they’re not incompatible) you’re sure to enjoy reading Skelton’s debut.

Blake Winters is at Oxford with his mother, Juliet, and his sister, who goes by the nickname Duck. His mother and father are temporarily separated, and Blake and Duck are torn between wanting to be with their mother and their father, who stayed behind. Time is divided in the minds and emotions of the two children between what their lives were like before and since a traumatic day they think of as the “Day of the Big Argument.” Duck has worn a yellow raincoat over her clothes ever since, no matter the weather. It’s a symbol of protection and security for her. Blake and Duck’s teachers have sent schoolwork with them to do while in England, supervised by their mother, so they’re in sort of a home-schooling situation.

Their parents, professors who met when they both attended college at Oxford, had different opinions about the interpretation of a mysterious figure, clad in yellow, in a painting of St. Ignatius. Blake’s father thought the figure was a boy (as Blake also believes, coming at his conclusion independently of his dad), while his mom (and most other people) believe it to be an old man, despite the seeming youthful appearance of the person’s face. Their father’s career spiraled because of his opinion about the figure and the legend of Faust, who sold his soul to the Devil to gain knowledge and power, and he’s become a stay-at-home dad while their mother’s career took off.

The novel is divided into sections between the life and experiences of the lad Endymion Spring, who lived in Mainz, Germany, in 1452, and the experiences and events happening to Blake, Edward and Juliet in present-day Oxford. Endymion laid type for Herr Gutenberg’s Bible, and he is who the mystical blank book that Blake finds (at St. Jerome’s College, Oxford, in the Mandeville Room of the Bodleian Library) named itself after. One of the two plot lines follows Endymion, the printer’s devil (assistant) to Gutenberg, whose life changes when Gutenberg’s wealthy benefactor, Fust, brings a chest containing a dragon’s skin into the boy’s life. Fust may be the man immortalized as Faust; both thirsted after forbidden knowledge and boundless power.

The dragon’s skin belonged to a Leafdragon, and the legend of the dragon and how its hide became converted into pure white paper is crucial to the entire novel. Words will appear on the paper, but only to the person the book Endymion Spring (which was made from the paper) chooses – or to whomever uses the blood of a child as ink which the book will absorb, revealing its hidden secrets and knowledge. Endymion absconds with the book, dressed as a monk, to Oxford, England, reasoning that the best hiding place for a book was among countless other books.

Endymion Spring is about the book finding Blake as much as Blake finding the book. It leads him and his sister on the trail of a possibly even more mysterious book, the Last Book, which is the fount of all knowledge both good and evil - like the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden mentioned in Genesis. People searched for it through the ages, willing to kill for it. For Blake and Duck, finding the book puts their lives in grave danger. Will the book Endymion Spring be the instrument of their deaths?

Endymion Spring is highly recommended for fans of books like Inkspell and the Pullman trilogy, books full of action, adventure, and mysterious secrets.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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  Douglas R. Cobb/2009 for curled up with a good kid's book  

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